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3 things your business should already be doing even before covid-19 pandemic

As you already know, the covid-19 pandemic has spread wildly all over the world. This has caused global economy to suffer badly, but what’s even worse is the number of lives lost to this virus and this is indeed sad.

I truly hope a cure can be found soon and can only pray about it. (and of course, to stay home as much as possible)

Amidst this virus, right here in Singapore, just a couple of weeks back, our Ministry of Health (MOH) has mandated for all enrichment/tuition centres to close.

There was a rule where social gatherings has to be less than 10 pax. Prior to MOH giving out this advice, I was already in dilemma whether my music workshops should go on at TravelClef.

I even questioned myself… “Am I being socially irresponsible?”

But when MOH gave this advice out, we pondered hard whether our classes should go on, since most gyms and yoga studios are still resuming business.

After a long discussion, I made the call to just stop all classes because it’s not worth the risk and it’s for the greater good. Yea this sounds noble but no, I’m just being very practical about it. Because I know the regulations will only get stricter.

Anyway, this decision is scary as all our corporate events were cancelled, and now our music workshops has to temporarily pause.

Yet, a part of me is not shaken because I know what has to be done now and where to focus our efforts.

Therefore, I’m writing this article as a reminder to myself and to share my journey thus far to all small businesses on what they should have in place even before this pandemic that’s happening right now.

So here are 3 points which I feel strongly about that all businesses should have.

1. Going Digital/Online

As broad as the term “going digital” may sound, depending on which industry you’re in, what I actually mean is all businesses should be able to sell your products/services online. Whether through an eCommerce platform or any other methods you can think of.

Some businesses may have to think very hard about this because I know it’s not as easy for industries like F&B.

TravelClef started primarily as an events company, where we provide music team bonding events from 2011-2017.

One fine day in 2017, I was frustrated.

I was frustrated how our business is a almost like a “one time” business, where after a company has engaged us for an event, they are unlikely to repeat the deal again. Yes we do have companies who have engaged us a several times for different programmes, but majority of companies don’t.

So I decided to offer our music workshops to the general public.

I picked up digital marketing, used Facebook ads to drive people to our venue to learn music. That opened up our public music workshops arm and today, we conduct ukulele, guitar, keyboard and cajon classes at our premises.

If you read in my “about me” section, you would know that initially our returns for our public ukulele workshop was more than 10x. Spending $500 on ads could drive us more than $5k worth of revenue in just 2 hours.

Of course, fast forward to today, ad costs for our music workshops have went up and it’s rare to get a 10x return now.

The point is we took the first step out from being just a “one-time” business and we explored the online space to drive up revenue growth.

But that being said, it was still a service business which wasn’t quite what I wanted. I felt that we could diversify more.

All these while, I’ve always wanted to productize our business.

So towards the end of 2017, we built a Shopify store selling our own brand of music instruments. I headed to China, met a few suppliers, and manufactured our own brand of ukuleles, guitars, unique items like our flexi-keyboard and foldable cajon.

Now, we have an online shop which can help boost our revenue in tough times like this.

However, selling music instruments to people who don’t know how to play music is almost impossible. Only people who knows how to play music will purchase music instruments.

Therefore, we ramped up efforts to build digital products to bundle together with our instrument.

Our best selling item till date is our Flexi Piano Starter Kit, where anyone could learn how to play piano even if they don’t have real piano.

With a 45 minute video tutorial, and a roll up keyboard, they can now learn music at home.

(In fact, we are running a crazy offer now to keep people occupied during their stay home period, which is to provide them with tools to learn and play music! Check out crazy offer here)

Right now, due to the stop of all classes, we only have our eCommerce store left to power us up.

Looking back at the way we evolved, I feel glad that we’ve taken steps to diversify our business.

Interestingly, during the first day of the circuit-breaker (Apr 6), our shop sales shot up and the ROAS on the FB campaign I ran was 20x!

If you can see, my ad spent was around $100 and the sales was $2.3k!

I guess most people are bored at home and want to find new activities to do.

Plus, I guess we also ran a good offer (link shown above)

But even with this sales amount, I’m not saying we are not affected at all right now.

We are.

Rentals and wages still have to be paid and the last thing I want is to cut cost via cutting labour.

The time now is crucial, to build up products and strategies in place so once this pandemic is over, we can turbocharge ahead.

We are just blessed to have made this decision way back to go online, but this pandemic is a stark reminder to us to continue building up digital products. (This shall be topic for another post as I have so much to say about it.)

One of the easiest platform to use for setting up eCommerce store is Shopify. But I must say it’s not the most cost efficient.

You can consider learning how to use WooCommerce, but that means you also need to learn how to build a wordpress site.

2. Building your email list

If you run a business and don’t have an email list, you should start building it up.

There are several benefits to having an email list but the most obvious one is you can instantly drive up your sales without paying for ads.

Plus, you can constantly engage with your customers, letting them know your latest promos, new developments, and be in touch with them.

As your email list grows, it will become increasingly valuable because you can easily make a couple of hundreds/thousands by just sending a sales email.

Having a huge database of subscribers is kinda like sitting on a goldmine.

Just last week, I sent out an email to our email list of 8000 subscribers to sell our Flexi-Drums Starter Kit and that email generated $4k worth of sales.

Of course, building up email list requires a lot of effort, time and even money. Our list of 8000 subscribers was gradually acquired since 2017 by running ads online.

If you haven’t build up email list, you can explore free ways by giving out valuable content and write interesting articles so people would subscribe to you.

Some of the popular email marketing (CRM) providers are Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit. I’m personally Drip because it allows us to create automated workflows.

If you are new, I recommend Mailchimp since they are one of the cheapest and also have a free plan.

3. Constantly exploring other strategies or business models (like subscription model for eg)

This last point is something that I personally have not yet executed, but we’re exploring ways to do so using our current resources.

Back in 2018, I read the book Subsribed by Tien Tzuo and was enlightened by it. You should read too if you have the time.

The main gist of the book is how times are changing and businesses should move toward a subscription model (think Netflix, Spotify, Apple Music etc)

The coolest takeaway for me from that book is how each year, your P&L actually starts with a ready flow of cash from your subscription instead of having to forecast your growth for that year.

Well, that’s a very brief point but if you are keen you should read the book to learn more.

The key thing to realise how things are constantly changing and evolving, so your business has to be ready and adaptable for changes too.

I’m leaving one of my favourite quote to end this article, from Gary Vaynerchuck:

“Ideas are SHIT. Execution is EVERYTHING”

Take action now!

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Who Is Edmund Chew?

I own a 7-figure music education company called TravelClef. I help fellow business owners scale their business using paid ads. I’m obsessed with marketing and entrepreneurship.

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